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UNP confident of forming next Government “Gota will have to work with us”

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by Zacki Jabbar

Former Prime Minister and UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, stressing he has “no deals with anybody” said he is confident of forming a UNP government following the upcoming parliamentary election “This election will prove to be one of the most vital in the country’s recent past,” he declared.

Amidst a hectic polls campaign, the UNP leader spoke to The Sunday Island , outlining his future plans and vision for the country.

Q – The UNP has promised a monthly Rs.10,000 for the recently unemployed due to the Coronavirus Pandemic and a further monthly Rs. 10,000 for families affected by a future lockdown. How many beneficiaries are you looking at and how soon would you implement the project, if elected to power?

A – Families will have to be helped if there is a future lockdown. We have presented our proposals and will negotiate with the IMF and others to get USD 6 billion. I think we can do the initial work within six months. In any case USD 850 million is due as a share of our quota.

Once we start, long term bankable bonds of 25 to 50 years can be issued. This is what the UK and USA did during World War two. But its important that we restructure the economy and attract investments so that the loans can be repaid within 50 years.

In parallel, we can start identifying those who have been displaced due to the Coronavirus. There will many applicants, but the minimum we can do is to look after the people who are out of employment now.

Q – How many beneficiaries are your looking at?

A – About a million. But we can go beyond that, if there is a mass exodus from the Middle East.

Q – Do you think the government would sign the MCC agreement with the USA after the election?

A – The agreement has been finalized. The government should without dilly-dallying any further, tell the people before the polls as to what the exact position is. It should also clarify if it was trying to mortgage Surakumpath worth USD 4,500 million with the U.S government and get a loan of USD 1000 million against it.

Q – What is the reason for the breakdown in relations with Japan?

A – The government owes an explanation on this as well. JICA has suspended assistance. Relations with Japan are strained. Wrong actions of the government have resulted in one of our oldest financial lenders losing confidence in Sri Lanka. We will revive this relationship through our strong and pro-active foreign policies.

Q – How do you think the UNP will perform at the general election ?

A – We are the largest party. It all depends on how many come to vote. No party is sure about that. If there is no fear of the Coronavirus, more people will go to the polling booths. We hope more people vote. The higher the percentage, the better for the UNP. The people who voted for Gotabaya are now fed up due to the problems they are facing on all fronts.

Q – Is there a possibility of the UNP and its breakaway faction linking up after the election ?

A – UNP is UNP. We have decided to go on our own. We have to re-establish the UNP brand. So we will go as the UNP. The Sri Lankan identity is associated with the UNP. We are the major party, the others came later.

Q – How do you view President Gotabaya Rajapaksa trying to run the country with Special Task Forces packed with former military officers?

A – Its not good for the country. There is no need for such extreme measures when there is a Cabinet of Ministers and a Parliament.

Q – The SJB says it would take over your party headquarters – Srikotha after August 5 ?

A – If anyone tries to use force they would be reported to the Welikada Police. What would become of the country, if everyone resorted to violence to acquire what did not belong to them.

Q – The UNP promised to abolish the Executive Presidency and Proportional Representation System. But your 2015 government didn’t do it?

A – Now it can be done only after the term of the current President, but the PR system can be scrapped if all parties agree.

Q – Who do you think was responsible for the recent demolition of the Assembly Hall of King Buvanekabahu ll in Kurunegala?

A – The problem is that there is a huge attempt to save the culprits. It has become a joke. It is those who shouted the loudest about preserving historical sites who are now unable to ensure law and order. The complaint states that the Mayor had approved of the RDA bulldozing the Assembly Hall. The police has to find out the truth. There are many questions that need to be answered . Did the Mayor inform the Archaeology Department and did it grant approval. But there should be no room to scuttle the investigations.

Q – Can you predict the result of the General Election ?

A – We are confident of forming the next government.

Q – With the support of other parties ?

A – I have not struck deals with any party or individual. We want to strengthen the UNP. We will form the next government.

Q – If the UNP wins, it will have to work with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa ?

A – No, he will have to work with us. Under the current Constitution the Cabinet of Ministers and Parliament have more powers than the President. He will have to consult us.

Outlining his economic revival plan, Wickremesinghe said that a UNP-led government would set out the basis to build a competitive platform similar to the Japanese model.

“We will strengthen competitive enterprises and promote new age industries and services. This will create the necessary foundation for us to develop a strong economy that could repay the loans. We will immediately provide relief to the people by improving their financial situation, safeguard jobs and income. The UNP has track record of raising the required finances through developing international relations.”

He said : the UNP will work towards strengthening the 19th Amendment to the Constitution and the various Independent Commissions that have empowered the public service including the judiciary and police and placed shackles on political interference. The recent practice of delegating functions of the Police to the military should stop forthwith and the military given its rightful role.

Economic mismanagement by the Gotabaya Rajapaksa government was the main cause for the suffering people were undergoing and not the Coronavirus pandemic. Leading figures in the government were pulling in different directions in an effort to cover the economic mess created in a short period of just eight months and have tried to avoid dealing with this crisis by hiding behind the COVID-19 pandemic.

The people were facing many problems in their homes due to the economic downturn. With the onset of the financial crisis there is a shortage of jobs and many had reduced or no income at all. Daily wage earners and even businessmen and women higher up in the economic scale are feeling the pressures exerted by the financial collapse.

The people are facing reduced or an absence of any income. From the daily wage earners to the large businessmen and women, the pressures exerted by the financial collapse is being felt. It is important that we recognize that the cause for this economic collapse cannot be attributed entirely to the health issues in the country. It has been the short-sighted economic management by the government that has resulted in this precipitating state of the economy.

It is the home economy that forms the foundation of our day to day lives. The price increases that we have witnessed at every level of consumer goods, starting from the basic needs to the luxury appliances, has clearly demonstrated that the home economic situation is no longer manageable. People around the country are facing difficulties in providing three square meals a day for their families.

Businesses are unable meet the necessary monthly salary payments for their employees. The government chose to slash the allowances of the State Sector Employees who were then deprived of the festival advances that have been previously provided to them yearly. Allowances of private sector employees have been reduced and most businesses are finding it difficult to meet the salary bills.

The Industrial sector is grinding to a halt. The recently imposed import restrictions have taken many businesses to the verge of collapse. The self-employment sector is in danger. The incomes of those who are engaged in agriculture as well as other sectors of our economy are also declining. Many of the key export markets have been lost. The country’s foreign revenue sources are disappearing fast and the economy is facing a grave danger of falling down an abyss. The retrogressive aspect of this crisis is the unbearable increase in the cost of living that has resulted in a large number of families in the country facing financial difficulties. The country as a whole is recording a decline in the per capita GDP. It has been predicted that over one million will be jobless by 2021.

The level of unemployment is expected to sky-rocket with a drop in Middle East employment. Sri Lanka’s foreign reserves are also depleting. Printing Rs. 450 billion is no solution to the crisis. We are falling from the frying pan to the fire. We must overcome this crisis and disentangle ourselves from the existing chaos created by this government. There are no short solutions to the problems that we face.

The UNP has on numerous occasions highlighted the importance of implementing a long term comprehensive economic programme that will cover all aspects of the economy. This is the only approach that can overcome this crisis. We have called upon the government to announce such a programme, but it is unable to formulate a strategy, because it lacks a viable economic vision. The government has already demonstrated in this short period that it lacks the capability to face the external economic challenges and build a strong national economy.

As a nation we are now faced with the gravest economic crisis since independence and it is only the UNP that has the vision, the plan and the capability to address the present crisis. We have a proven track-record time and again undoing economic mismanagement and reviving our economy. In 1977, 2001, 2015 and again in 2019 after the Easter Sunday attacks, it was the UNP that led the country’s economic recovery.

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EC: HC judgment won’t bar Premalal from contesting

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… former, present polls monitors differ

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Election Commission (EC) Chairman Mahinda Deshapriya yesterday (3) said that the recent Ratnapura High Court ruling, in respect of the 2015 January Kahawatte killing, wouldn’t bar SLPP candidate Premalal Jayasekera from contesting the parliamentary polls on August 5.

 Deshapriya said so when The Island asked for comment on the Ratnapura, High Court sentencing the SLPP candidate, along with two others, to death, over the killing of a person backing the then common candidate Maithripala Sirisena.

At the time of the incident, Jayasekera held the post of Deputy Minister in the SLFP-led UPFA government.

Deshapriya said that there had never been a similar case before though there had been cases of elected lawmakers being unseated after being found guilty by courts.

 “We’ll discuss the issue at hand after the election and decide what to do,” Deshapriya said, adding that there was no change in the status quo as a result of the Ratnapura HC ruling.

The EC consists of Mahinda Deshapriya, Prof. Ratnajeevan Hoole and Nalin Abeysekera, PC.

CMEV (Center for Monitoring Election Violence) spokesman Manjula Gajanayake told The Island that the top SLPP leadership should have considered all aspects before accommodating the former lawmaker on the Ratnapura nomination list. The SLPP could have easily avoided what Gajanayake called unnecessary complication by fielding another in place of Jayasekera, Gajanayake said. The polls monitor pointed out that the SLPP was aware that the Kahawatte case had been heard and the ruling was pending.

Responding to another query, Gajanayake said that the EC as well as political parties, especially those represented in parliament would have to address the issue.

Ratnapura District SLPP list comprises Vasudeva Nanayakkara (leader), Pavitradevi Wanniarachchi, Janaka Wakkumbura, John Seneviratne, Premalal Jayasekera, Dunesh Gankanda, Akila Ellawala, Sanee Rohana Kodituwakku,  Ranjith Bandara, Gamini Waleboda, Muditha Prishanthi, Hettiarachchige Lakshman Premaratne, Athula Kumara Rahubadda and Miyuru Bhashitha Liyanage. SLPP’s 14 candidates, include six former lawmakers. Of them, Dunesh Gankanda was elected from the Ratnapura district on the UNP ticket at the last parliamentary polls in August 2015.

 The SLPP should blame itself for the crisis, Gajanayake said.

 On Feb 26, 2019 four suspects who had been charged with killing of an individual in Kahawatta during the 2015 presidential polls campaign were acquitted and released by the High Court of Ratnapura. However, Jayasekera and two others remained as accused.

 Executive Director of PAFFREL (People’s Action for Free and Fair Election) Rohana Hettiarachchi told The Island that at the time Jayasekera received nomination he hadn’t been found guilty by High Court of Ratnapura. Therefore, there couldn’t be an issue in voters exercising their franchise for Jayasekera tomorrow, Hettiarachchi said. However, the EC would have to seek legal advice before Jayasekera received oaths as a member of parliament. 

 The police arrested Jayasekera in the Beruwela police area while he was hiding after the high profile Kahawatte killing.

 CaFFE (Campaign for Free and Fair Elections) head Ahamed Manas Makeen told The Island that the electorate should exercise their franchise for those who had clean records. Those who abused women and children or encouraged such practices, bribery and corruption and engaged or promoted violence or extremism shouldn’t be encouraged. Makeen said that the CaFFE stand was relevant to all districts not only Ratnapura where a candidate was sentenced to death.

 However Makeen’s predecessor, Rajith Keerthi Tennakoon, in a letter dated Aug 2 addressed to the EC, on behalf of the Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) said that in terms of the Article 89 of the Constitution a convicted murderer is automatically deprived of the right to exercise his franchise. Therefore, Jayasekera couldn’t vote at tomorrow’s general election, Tennakoon said, pointing out that in terms of Article 91 of the Constitution, a person disqualified to vote at the general election couldn’t contest. Tennakoon urged the EC to advice the Returning Officer of Ratnapura accordingly without delay.

 Keerthi functions as the SJB representative at the EC.

 SLPP Chairman Prof. G.L. Peiris said that they were watching the situation.

 

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Police initially believed in what Sampayo told them about Negombo Prison

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Image grabbed from video footage of Sampayo speaking to the media on Sunday at Kurunegala

by Norman Palihawadane

The Negombo Police, probing the alleged links between prison officials and inmates serving time there for drug offences, said that there had been numerous complaints about drug cartels operating from the Negombo Prison but former Superintendent (SP) of the Negombo Prison, Anuruddha Sampayo, always told them that there were no such rackets.

SP Sampayo was of the opinion that some elements were spreading such stories to tarnish the good name of officers attached to the Negombo prison.

Sampayo, who was evading arrest after being issued warrants, surrendered, on Sunday

Following directions of the Attorney General, the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) on July 22 obtained arrest warrants, from the Negombo Magistrate, on Sampayo and three other officials of the Negombo Prison .

Sampayo is the first suspect in the case filed over committing irregularities in the Negombo Prison. The three other suspects in the case – Chief Jailor of the Prison Upali Sarath Bandara, Second Tier Jailer Nishantha Senaratne and Jailer Prasad Kalinga Kaluaggala – surrendered to the police earlier and they were remanded until Aug 04 by the court.

Police Media Spokesman Senior Superintendent of Police Jaliya Senaratne said Sampayo had been handed over to the Criminal Investigation Department after recording a statement.

 

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President says he will build people-centric economy

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President Gotabaya Rajapaksa says he will build a people-centric economy. The government’s goal, he says, is to create a national economy that would help the local entrepreneurs, instead of selling national resources and country’s assets to foreigners.

Rajapaksa says it is important to come to terms with the harsh economic reality due to the COVID-19 pandemic and economically empower the people instead of talking about the cost of living.

The President made these remarks at rallies he attended in support of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna in the Hambantota District on Sunday (August 02).

The President attended a meeting at the Mahinda Rajapaksa Shopping Complex, Middeniya, and inquired from the public about their needs. The gathering was organised by the SLPP candidate Kapila Dissanayake. In response to a request for repairs to the roof of a building in Middeniya Maha Vidyalaya, the President ordered the Army Commander to look into the matter immediately.

The President also heeded a request by the public to develop the Middeniya Hospital.

Maha Sangha present at the public rally in Walasmulla Public Playground requested the President to carve out a Pradheshiya Sabha area for Walasmulla. The rally was organised by the SLPP candidate Lionel Subasinghe.

Some issues pertaining to the Walasmulla Hospital, bus stand and market were brought to the President’s notice. People requested the President to convert a school closed down in the Yahamulla, area for want of students, into a factory.

President Rajapaksa was warmly welcomed at a public rally near the Beliatta Pradheshiya Sabha organised by the SLPP candidate Namal Rajapaksa.

The President also attended a public rally, organized by candidates Namal Rajapaksa and D.V. Chanaka, near the Tangalle Municipal Council, and inquired from the crowd about their needs.

That was the last public gathering President Rajapaksa attended in the country-wide election campaign in support of the SLPP candidates, contesting tomorrow’s general election.

 

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